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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Women in Animation: Eiko Tanaka & WiA

NOTE: This post originally appeared on my Smudge Animation site on March 29th, 2011.

I'd like to end this month of profiles on Women in Animation by sharing some information about a great success story in the field of animation: Eiko Tanaka.

Eiko Tanaka founded her own animation studio, Studio 4°C (1), in Tokyo back in 1986 after working "as a line producer on Hayao Miyazaki's MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE" (2). In the past twenty-five years, Studio 4°C has worked on such films as "Spriggan", "the Animatrix", "Batman: Gotham Knight", "First Squad: The Moment of Truth", and two of my personal favorites: "Genius Party" and "Genius Party Beyond". Additionally, Studio 4°C has worked on television series, commercials, video games, public service announcements, and their own animated shorts (3). And if that wasn't enough, she apparently is also "the chief executive office of a producing company called Beyond C" (4).

Having had both Spriggan and the Animatrix in my collection, I hadn't given much thought to their production companies until I went to the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema back in 2008. It was there that I saw both Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond. Having been raised on a steady diet of anime (and it's ofttimes uninspired visual style), I was blown away by the wide range of story and visuals projected on the screen. It was fascinating to see such an established a studio break out of the 'big eyes-small mouth' stereotype of Japanese animation and push the boundaries of the artistic medium using the gift for technical precision and quality that is so prevalent in Japanese society. The following is a trailer from WFAC's presentation of Genius Party which clearly illustrates the skill and vision of Eiko Tanaka's company.

My last word for this month is to mention the professional organization "Women in Animation". WIA is a very affordable professional group for pros and students who work in the field of animation (5). WIA currently has chapters in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. If I had a daughter who wanted to know what it was like to work in the field of animation, WIA is probably one of the first places I would suggest she start looking for information--since their membership roster is a who's-who of animation studio creatives, executives, and independents. As networking is one of the best ways to gather intel about a job field (and a pretty good way to find employment and educational opportunities), I view this collection of women (6) as having one of the widest spectrums of job experience in the field of animation. The women of WIA are a resource that should be consulted by any girl wishing to pursue a career in animation at any level.

1. Although one source I found (Crunchyroll.com) lists her as a co founder along with: Koji Morimoto and Yoshiharu Sato
2. Source: Studio 4°C website - company hyperlink
3 Source: Wikipedia Entry - Studio 4°C
4. Source: Wikipedia Entry - Eiko Tanaka
5. Annual membership is currently $50 for professionals and $25 for students.
6. And no, you don't have to be a woman to join WIA. As my current membership will attest, 30% of WIA's membership happen to be men.